Brad Pickett will bring his one-punch KO power to the flyweight division for the first time.
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Brad Pickett’s move to flyweight became a reality today when sitting a few feet away from me on the UK’s premier UFC magazine show - BT Sport’s Beyond The Octagon - ‘One Punch’ revealed he will fight Ian McCall in London on March 8. It sets the pulse racing. Every division has either a Brazilian or an American as champion at present, with that one Canadian - GSP - holding the welterweight crown.
In the 20 year history of the UFC, only two Europeans have held gold belts around their waists: Dutchman Bas Rutten in 1999, and a far Eastern European, Andre Arlovski, the Belarussian, briefly in 2005. Both were heavyweights.
Could Pickett become the first UFC champion from Europe for what feels like an eternity, in 2014 ? Right now, ahead of Saturday night, Pickett may secretly hope that Demetrious Johnson retains the crown against Joseph Benavidez.
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Arguably, regardless of who wins the crown in Sacramento - be it Johnson or the vastly improved 2013 version of Benavidez - Pickett’s move down puts him in pole position to become the leading European placed fighter on the route to UFC gold. There could be a race on with Michael Bisping, at middleweight, and Alex Gustafsson, at light heavyweight.
Pickett, of course, has a victory over Johnson from the heady days of the WEC, by unanimous decision, three and a half years ago.
I’m happy to push myself to the limit trying to win the flyweight title – and if I’ve done my utmost, and I don’t get there, I’ll retire happy.
Making weight will be crucial and Pickett has already set about dieting for the cause. Indeed, when he went on honeymoon in the south of India last month, he stayed clean and is now working his way down to living at 135lbs until the final week before he fights in his home town in three and half months’ time.
Mentally, he says, it is not an issue. "I don’t ever want to have that ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’ moment when I’m sitting with my grandchildren, saying I once beat that guy who reigned in the flyweight division. Three times I was on the cusp of fighting for the bantamweight title, and three times I lost against Eddie Wineland, Renan Barao, and Michael MacDonald."
"I’m happy to push myself to the limit trying to win the flyweight title – and if I’ve done my utmost, and I don’t get there, I’ll retire happy," Pickett said.
Dropping weight and dieting - by graduating his weight slowly - is not a lone task. Pickett is being assisted through the advice of strength and conditioning coach Tim Benjamin, once a 400m runner at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, respectively for Wales and Great Britain.
"Tim has studied Sports Science and is a font of knowledge," explained Pickett. "He has me on the road to flyweight and I’m highly motivated. These are the kind of challenges that get me up in the morning."
At 34, Pickett needs deep tests, both inside and outside the Octagon, and he will bring fire to the flyweight contenders. Look at the rankings at 125lbs at present, and although he cannot get a placement until he has weighed in and fought, it is not unthinkable for him to slot in at No 3 with a victory over McCall.
I’d love to coach a flyweight TUF in the UK, against the reigning flyweight champion, be it Johnson, or Benavidez.
Easier said than done, of course. But Pickett’s heavy hands, speed, and versatility in transitioning from the stand-up to the ground make him a challenge for anyone at 125lbs.
The dream, says Pickett, is to win in March, and then go on to be a TUF coach in the UK, with a series being mooted on British soil in 2014. "I’d love to coach a flyweight TUF in the UK, against the reigning flyweight champion, be it Johnson, or Benavidez," explained Pickett. "To make it a reality would be a dream come true." And without dreams, what else do we have ? Food for thought.